Saturday, August 29, 2020

Quarantine, Week 24: Anger, Sadness, and Hope

It is getting harder and harder to come up with new titles for these posts, as each week seems mostly the same.  Have we reached the end of the beginning of this?  Is a new phase is arriving, one mixing hope and despair?  Or is it more of the same?  We have another Black man shot while a white kid shoots protesters.  Yet we see the NBA and the WNBA make a difference, forcing pretty much every North American athlete to have to consider what to do and compelling the owners to make their facilities voting locations. I'll focus on the academic and personal and then move onto the larger stuff.

For me, it was a pretty great week.  David Hornsby and I taped four segments of us bantering about IR theory for our class this fall.  They were fun to do, I learned much from David, and I think the students will do so as well.  I also interviewed some scholars elsewhere to create segments for the class.  I was asking how they thought about their stuff and why they made the choices they did--these are not usually the conversations we have, looking backwards at the how and the why.  These scholars--Jessica Chen Weiss (whom I know from our common UCSD background), Keren Yari-Milo (I had assigned some of her stuff but never met her before), and Janice Stein (who has been super helpful on the Advisory Board of the CDSN).  They each were generous with their time and insights.  Janice interviewed me as well for her class.  I made much progress cleaning up the course webpage.  I just need to stick in the remaining videos that Furloughed Filmmaker Spew is working on.  I spent far more time on course prep this summer than any other time in my career, and, it is not quite done yet.

I feel good about those efforts, and I feel good that Carleton is already signaling that we will be online in the winter.  However, I feel a bit of guilt because I have friends who are sallying forth into the classroom, armored to protect themselves from COVID.  They face students who are being students, which means they are violating the rules and spending time with each other, leading to outbreaks from coast to coast.  I find the policies of many schools to be utterly irresponsible--bringing students together, not preparing well enough, and then when the disease shows up quite predictably, they send the kids back to their homes, spreading the disease across North America anew.  Yes, UNC, I am talking about you.  I am so angry about how federal and state governments have put universities and colleges into awful positions, and then many administrations of these schools then do the same to their professors, staff, and students.

It is not all bad news.  Danielle Lupton of Colgate University has organized practice job talks for the newly minted PhDs (and ABDs--all but dissertations) who are facing the worst academic job market in modern history.  I participated in one this week, and it was good to see familiar and new faces, offering insightful feedback to the student.  The CDSN is chugging along.  I had good meetings with my staff--I have hired well!  Next week marks the end of Alvine Nintai's work with us as a research assistant.  She moves onto a real job.  We will miss her as she has been with us for a couple of years, helping us get funded by helping profs and partners navigate the grant agency's website.  She has given us many great ideas and has helped provide the info that makes us sound smart on Battle Rhythm.

Out there in the world, there is much darkness, best represented by the lying nepotists of the GOP convention.  I didn't watch it but caught glimpses.  The use of the White House, violating the Hatch Act, was very much a clear demonstration of Trump's impunity.  He never respected the norms nor the laws of the American political system.  Impeachment did not chasten him.  He is now desperate to win since he has enjoyed using the Department of Justice to protect himself.  So, this fall will be quite ugly, and I wonder if the will of the American people will be heard or not.  The postal service gambit has done much of the work of tainting the election already. While the Dems pushed back well in Congress this week, it is increasingly clear the sorting machines will not be back where they should be by November.  Trump will have his ready excuse to hold on.  However, fudging with election results often goes poorly for autocrats, so Trump may try to do so, but he may not succeed.

Where do I find hope?  In basketball.  Ok, in basketball players.  Remember that the pandemic really only got recognized in the US when the NBA stopped playing.  Well, this week, the NBA stopped playing again with the attack on Jacob Blake by Kenosha cops.  The WNBA had perhaps the best visual demonstration (although the Mets/Marlins did pretty well) wearing shirts with seven holes in
the back.  The playoffs will resume, but I would not bet that they go to completion.  There may be another stoppage as things play out on the streets.  What did they accomplish?  They reminded us that the violence is being committed by cops against Black bodies and that is more important than the destruction of some property.  This strike also got the NBA owners to commit to having their facilities used for voting.  Some had already agreed to it, with the rest now following suit.  The WNBA has been laying siege to the corrupt Senator Kelly Loeffler, the inside trader/traitor, as she is a part owner of the Atlanta WNBA team.  More, please.

While people are concerned that the law and order campaign of Trump will work, I am not so fussed.  Yes, protesters have been rude to Rand Paul (as I would be), and some have engaged in violence.  But Trump faces a basic problem--this is all happening on his watch.  He can deny responsibility, but the usual chant of an incumbent is "Four More Years!"  Four more years of this?  Of bungling a pandemic? Of inciting violence?  Of breaking the law?  Of alienating allies and sucking up to our adversaries?  The Trump people can't develop a coherent story since a coherent one that has any facts involved will produce what?  Biden up by 9 or 10 points.  Ooops.

To be sure, I am complacent about complacency.  I don't expect complacency to be a problem because Trump has endangered the lives and well-being of hundreds of millions of Americans.  The Trumpists, the cultists, will be impervious to this reality.  But, yes, there are more of us than of them, and the us will turn out, one way or another.  The question remains whether their votes will be counted.  If they are, Biden wins.  If they are not, DC will look like Minsk with massive protests.

The death last night of Chadwick Boseman was gutting, as he was so young, had made such a difference, and was so aware of his role as the biggest Black Superhero of our age.  But the videos and eulogies this morning fill me with something besides sadness.  That there are great people out there who have been motivated and assisted by their predecessors (Denzel Washington funding Boseman's educationmets ), that there can be progress despite the forces of regression.

A friend said on twitter something I have been saying and thinking for nearly six months now:  the only way out is through.  We are closer to vaccines, we have made much progress on treatments, finding more creative ways to detect outbreaks (wastewater!).  The energies of scientists have been focused on this plague.  It has been worse than it had to be, thanks to Trump and polarization, thanks to democratic politicians elsewhere acting slowly, thanks to China for responding poorly, thanks to the WHO and CDC for making some bad choices at first.  But we have made it through the worst.  Yes, the winter will be hard, but 2021 will be better can than 2020.  How could it not be?  [Don't answer that]

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